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WVU forms committee to pursue tree campus designation

Photos of trees on campus
Trees are one of WVU's valuable assets on campus.
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The tree is probably the most iconic symbol of Earth Day, the holiday supporting environmental protection. A group of West Virginia University faculty, staff and students want to turn the tree from a symbol into an ecological representation of Mountaineer pride by forming a committee to pursue the Tree Campus USA designation.  

“The trees and all of the green spaces on the many campuses of West Virginia University are an extraordinarily valuable asset to the university, its visitors and to the environment,” says Keith Lawrence, assistant vice president of Facilities Management and a member of the committee. “Like any valuable assets, these need to be cared for, not only in the immediate short-term, but for generations to follow.”  

The Tree Campus USA designation, a program created by the national Arbor Day Foundation, requires the formation of a tree campus committee, a tree care plan, dedicated annual expenditures that allow for tree management, annual observance of Arbor Day and service opportunities that give students hands-on experience with tree projects.  

WVU’s committee benefits from the knowledge and experience of Morgantown, which has been a Tree City for more than 20 years, and goals for the committee are to preserve the natural assets of campus, increase safety in outdoor spaces, create pleasant outdoor experiences, and preserve the history and symbolic meaning of campus trees.

Committee members include:

  • Jonathan Cumming , professor of biology, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences

  • Greg Dahle , associate professor of Forest Resource Management, Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Design  

  • Byron Smith, director of Roads and Grounds, Facilities Management  

  •James Mirage, assistant director of Roads and Grounds, Facilities Management

  •Ed Mason, assistant director of Roads and Grounds, Facilities Management

  • Traci Knabenshue , director of sustainability, Facilities and Services  

  • Stephanie Toothman, conservation specialist, Facilities and Services

  • Brian Lemme , stormwater specialist, Environmental Health and Safety

  • Liza Rigucci, project engineer, Planning, Design, Construction, and Scheduling

  • Zach Fowler, clinical assistant professor of biology and director of the WVU Core Arboretum

  • David Blades, student majoring in Forest Resources Management

  • George Longenecker, community member representative and past director of the West Virginia Botanic Garden

  • Dan Brown, former arborist at WVU and Morgantown Tree Board member

The committee’s first item of business is to hire a firm to complete a tree inventory of the downtown, Evansdale, and Health Sciences campuses. The inventory will number each tree, record tree locations and species, measure the diameter of each tree, and make recommendations for care, while being used to create a care plan.

“Safety is a top priority for us, and the tree care plan that the Tree Campus committee develops will give us tools to keep our trees healthy and safe and to communicate with the campus community about tree work before it happens,” said Ed Mason, assistant director of Roads and Grounds in Facilities Management.  

The committee will work throughout the summer and fall on requirements for the designation and will formally apply in December. If awarded the Tree Campus USA designation, WVU will submit information to the Arbor Day Foundation annually to be recertified.



CONTACT: Traci Knabenshue, director of sustainability in WVU Facilities and Services

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